We moved into the fourth round of the FA Cup after battling the mud against National League side Stockport County.
With the match played in heavy rain, chances were at a premium before Craig Dawson headed in from Jarrod Bowen’s cross late on for the winning goal. We will play at home to League One side Doncaster Rovers in round four over the weekend of 23-24 January.
The winners of that tie will then be away at Manchester United or Liverpool – currently second and first respectively in the Premier League – in the fifth round.
David Moyes named a strong side and we dominated possession in the first half but could not break down a resolute home defence. Despite a brief stoppage early on when a large number of fireworks were let off close to the ground, there was little sparkle on the pitch as we were largely restricted to long-range efforts, with Andriy Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Michail Antonio and Declan Rice all shooting wide, while Stockport failed to have a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed, Manuel Lanzini’s strike straight at home goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe in the 33rd minute was the only first-half effort on target – the lowest number in all of this season’s FA Cup third-round matches.
The game was played in torrential rain with the ball repeatedly holding up in the puddles on the pitch after the break. England midfielder Rice tried to stamp a bit of quality on proceedings with a fine run from the halfway line before he was crowded out by Stockport defenders in the penalty area.
The breakthrough moment came in the 82nd minute when West Ham played a short corner and Dawson met Bowen’s cross to head the Hammers into round four.
“The main thing is we’re through and we were pleased with the way the players went about things. One of the big worries about these kind of ties is your players think it might be a bit easier than we knew it was going to be, so we were pleased with the attitude. Our football up until the final third was good but we didn’t penetrate enough against a very well organised, hard-working and disciplined Stockport defence. I did feel we needed to start putting some crosses into the box, because we’d been sliding things through a very compact defence. The goal came from one cross that led to a corner then another cross that obviously led to a fantastic header. We weren’t worried about the attitude but we were looking at extra time, that was becoming a possibility. It would have meant playing on in even more difficult conditions – for both teams, not just for us.”West Ham assistant manager Alan Irvine